Natalie Scholtz is Speechie currently working with me in private practice in Cape Town. You will see many interesting topics here on the blog submitted by her but now it’s time to get a little personal and hear a bit about her Com Serve year. I hope that this inspires a few of you to head East.
“I completed my community service year in Port Elizabeth at the PE Hospital Complex, which includes Livingstone, Dora Nginza and PE Provincial Hospitals, in 2015.
Livingstone hospital is a large tertiary level hospital, which attends to adult patients within many areas including general medical, orthopaedic and neurological issues. The hospital also has a small paediatric ward mostly for children who need neurological or orthopaedic intervention, a fairly new oncology unit (where we saw mostly patients with brain tumours and laryngectomys) and an adult ICU and High Care unit.
Dora Nginza hospital is also a large hospital with adult wards for general medical issues, pre-natal and post-natal maternity wards and paediatric wards, including NICU, PICU, Nursery, Prem Unit and general medical. This is the hospital where I received most of my paediatric in-patient experience.
PE Provincial Hospital has paediatric and adult wards, which are more specialized. Patients are admitted here for ENT, ophthalmology, cardio-thoracics, oncology, neurology etc. The hospital also has an adult ICU. I saw many interesting and different cases at this hospital, especially in the neurology ward (rarer neurological diagnoses and young strokes) and ENT ward (laryngectomy and tongue resection cases).
In 2015 the speech therapy department consisted of three other community service speech therapists and two permanent speech therapists, as well as myself. One of the permanent speech therapists saw all the outpatients (based at Livingstone) and there was only one other speech therapist servicing all the surrounding district outpatients meaning that waiting lists were long for outpatients! The rest of us managed the inpatient caseload across the three hospitals (we rotated through all three hospitals during the year). The caseloads were heavy and we were extremely understaffed, meaning the days were jam-packed and most of the time the dysphagia patients took priority over the patients for communication therapy.
In 2016 the department only got two community service speech therapists and unfortunately none of the community service therapists in my year were able to stay on. The two permanent speech therapists have also resigned. The services have unfortunately been reduced even further and the service that was being provided at Dora Nginza is pretty much non-existent at the moment, due to the lack of speech therapists on the team.
I stayed in the hospital accommodation at Protea Flats, which is really central in PE. This was a good experience overall as you are living with many of the other young interns and community service professionals from the hospitals, and there are always social events on the go. The PE Hospital Complex Facebook page (https://web.facebook.com/groups/133533860044548/) is a great place to find out more about the hospitals, the current staff, the PE experience and to see what social events are being organized.
During my year, there was a ‘Pay-day Party’ where all the staff were invited to a party to celebrate the first payday of the year at a bar just down the road from Protea Flats. The hospital complex also organized events to go watch the cricket, rugby and the horse races, weekends away to Jeffreys Bay and other surrounding towns, a Halloween Party, group transport to go to Oktoberfest, a St Patrick’s Day party, a wine tasting evening and beach days (to name a few). PE offers lots of great restaurants, especially in Stanley Street and along the beachfront. There are many beautiful beaches and Cape Recife nature reserve is also close by. There are also many wonderful surrounding towns and areas to visit including Jeffreys Bay, the Tsitsikamma National Park, Hogsback and Grahamstown. Just a bit further up the east coast are the towns East London, Coffee Bay and Chintsa and just a bit further down is the beautiful Garden Route.
The PE hospital complex is an incredible place to learn about the acute care setting and I got a wide range of experience. Port Elizabeth itself has so much to offer and was a lovely place to live in. It is such a pity that the speech therapy services at the hospital are as they are at the moment because the need for our services is huge!
Should you wish to find out more about my experience at these hospitals please feel free to contact me! I would also however suggest getting in contact with the most current community service therapists or permanent staff to find out more about their experience, as experiences change from year to year and from person to person.